LAS VEGAS (AP) — Bernie Sanders is courting voters in Nevada who might not be very politically engaged, as well as moderate Democrats and Latinos, the Vermont senator’s campaign said Thursday.
Sanders’ senior adviser Jeff Weaver, in a phone call with reporters marking 100 days until Nevada’s early nominating caucuses, said the campaign will start airing television ads in the state in the coming weeks.
Nevada, the third state to weigh in on the Democratic presidential primary, will hold its caucuses on Feb. 22.
In 2016, the caucuses delivered a decisive win for Hillary Clinton after she lost in New Hampshire. She went on to win the Democratic nomination.
Sanders lost by five delegates and about five percentage points but delivered a strong performance in northern Nevada, winning Washoe County surrounding Reno.
This year, with more than 70 paid staff, Sanders has the largest paid team on the ground in the crowded Democratic field.
Sarah Michelsen, his Nevada state director, said the campaign expects to have more than 100 people hired before the end of the year.
The senator has been cast by some in the primary as too liberal. Nevada Democrats have opted for moderate candidates in recent years, but Weaver said Sanders is making a play for moderates and has strong appeal among rural voters.
“Rural voters, in particular, I think have a meter that detects, let’s call it, inauthenticity from far away,” Weaver said. “With Bernie Sanders, they know he’s fighting for them even if they may not agree with every single line in his policy position.”
He and Michelsen said the campaign is working to grow Sanders’ numbers by winning the support of first-time voters, students, voters of color and others who might not be stalwart participants of the process.
Latinos, who make up 29% of Nevada’s population, are a focus of the campaign’s outreach, the advisers said.
Michelsen said the campaign has worked to show solidarity with the politically powerful Culinary Union, made up of casino workers. The union’s members say they don’t want to give up their hard-fought private health insurance for a government plan, as they’d eventually need to do under Medicare for All proposed by Sanders.
She says the campaign has been in conversations with the union about the plan, which the campaign said would require companies to pass along any savings under Medicare for All directly to employees.